The Army of Worn Soles launch blog tour continues! Read to the end for the clue that will help you win the Grand Prize of a signed paperback copy of Army of Worn Soles plus a $50 Amazon gift card. If you collect all the clues and put them in the right order, they’ll make a sentence. Send the sentence to the author (Scott Bury - see below for contact details) for a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of Army of Worn Soles plus a gift certificate from Amazon.
For a chance to enter the early-bird draw, enter the clue at the bottom of the post in the Comments section.
To see where the blog tour stops next, and to find the next clue, visit the author’s blog, Written Words.
Chapter 11: Fighting on the Dnipro
Central Ukraine, September 1941
Maurice and his men grew more and more nervous as the clouds approached the riverbank. By afternoon, they saw refugees approaching the bridges, streams of people on horse-drawn carts or on foot, a few rickety trucks. Behind them were the remnants of the 6th Army, mostly foot soldiers, a few battered tanks and hundreds of horse-drawn carts. From their vantage point, Maurice and his boys watched the sorry parade stream across the Dnipro bridges.
Then they heard the distant thunder of approaching war. And the Germans were upon them.
The airplanes were first. Maurice could never forget the buzzing sound of the Messerschmidts and the screaming Stuka bombers. They filled the sky, bombing and strafing, easily dodging Soviet anti-aircraft fire from the eastern riverbank.
“Where are our planes?” someone yelled after a bomb shook the bunkers.
There wasn’t a Soviet aircraft to be seen—just panic on the ground as the guards blocked the bridges.
The Wehrmacht tore apart the ragged Soviet columns still on the western bank. Then Maurice and his men saw the dreaded Panzers. Some raced along the roads. Others crossed the deserted farmlands more slowly. It seemed only minutes before they were at the edge of the river, even though Maurice knew it had to have been hours.
Charges under the bridges detonated before the Germans got there, stranding thousands of refugees.
“The idiots,” said Danylo, the lieutenant of the unit to Maurice’s right. “They should have waited until the first tanks were halfway across and taken some of them down.”
But Maurice and everyone else knew that was too risky.
Behind them, the Soviet heavy artillery started firing. Maurice saw plumes of dust rising as the shells struck among the German tanks but never actually hit one.
Behind the tanks came the infantry in squat armoured cars, and horses hauling cannons and wagons. By nightfall, the Germans had dug in behind the riverbank, and even though the Soviets kept firing cannons and mortars at them, the Germans didn’t seem bothered. “They’re indestructible,” Private Yuri said. “We can’t even touch them.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Big Eugene said. He was a broad-shouldered youth who stood more than six feet tall. “Our gunners just have to get the range.”
“Well, they sure seem to be having trouble doing that,” Yuri said.
The Red Army settled into a new routine, hunkered down in the trenches during most of the day as each side’s artillery duelled. Sometimes, the riflemen would take long shots at their opponents, but never hit anything. Overhead, the cannons and mortars roared and coughed and below the bluff, the shells exploded among the trucks and tanks. Occasionally, they hit something, but usually did no more than send dirt high into the air.
The Germans’ heavy guns would answer, spitting death overhead to crash down behind them. Usually they missed, but sometimes they smashed apart stores of food or ammunition, sometimes ripping apart men and horses. Once, Maurice and his men rushed up the bank to help douse a fire burning close to an ammunition store.
Days dragged. Maurice and his unit spent as much time away from the trench as the officers would tolerate. They hid in the bunker, playing cards and smoking. While on duty, watching the enemy across the river, they felt useless.
“Why don’t we attack them?” Corporal Orest said. “We’re doing nothing. We have the higher ground. We could destroy them.”
“Let’s keep our heads down, Corporal,” Maurice said. “There’s no use in making ourselves into target practice for Fritz.”
Or being cannon fodder for the Russians, he thought.
About the book:
1941: Their retreat across Ukraine wore their boots out—and they kept going.
Three months after drafting him, the Soviet Red Army throws Maurice Bury, along with millions of other under-trained men, against the juggernaut of Nazi Germany's Operation Barbarossa, the assault on the USSR.
Army of Worn Soles tells the true story of a Canadian who had to find in himself a way to keep himself alive—and the men who followed him.
It is available in e-book form exclusively on Amazon.
About the author:
Scott Bury is a journalist, editor and novelist based in Ottawa, Canada. He has written for magazines in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia. He is author of The Bones of the Earth, a fantasy set in the real time and place of eastern Europe of the sixth century; One Shade of Red, a humorous erotic romance;a children’s short story, Sam, the Strawb Part (proceeds of which are donated to an autism charity), and other stories.
Scott Bury lives in Ottawa with his lovely, supportive and long-suffering wife, two mighty sons and two pesky cats. He can be found online at www.writtenword.ca, on his blog, Written Words, on Amazon, on Twitter @ScottTheWriter, and on Facebook.
Today’s clue: sequel